In my Indian American family, where no occasion passes without celebration, getting into the Christmas spirit means grooving to Bollywood music. Though none of our elders grew up celebrating Christmas, they’ve embraced it wholly, and when we come together for Christmas dinner at my in-law’s home in Los Angeles, everyone has a task. While the moms roast the nuts with chaat masala and the dads gather ’round the wine, my job is to sync my phone to a bluetooth speaker and play deejay. My father-in-law, Vrajesh Lal, the family’s patriarch, begins the evening with a full glass of pinot noir and a request for “something Christmas-y,” like “Elvis’ Christmas Album.” (Having immigrated from India to the U.S. in 1972, Vrajesh is a big fan of Elvis.) But when the nuts give way to Cornish game hens and cumin-crusted squash (for the vegetarians), he never fails to flag me down with a new directive: “Let’s put on some Bollywood, huh?” My playlist includes Bhangra-style covers of Christmas music, with beats that hail from north India, songs from the Bollywood Brass Band and some of my father-in-law’s favorite Bollywood hits. Even the King cannot compete with this family’s compulsion to celebrate Christmas with jams from the mother country.
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